Sunday, February 14, 2016

How to pack a backpack for a day hike

How you load your backpack can save you a lot of aches and pains,
both on the trail or long after the hike is over.
Many backpackers just toss their gear into their bag and go. While that may not seem like a big deal for a short day hike in which the backpack rarely is full, it actually can result in all kinds of problems – mostly discomfort but ultimately sore shoulders and back that last well beyond the hike. It also can ensure you don’t forget any items as you take the time to organize what you’ll pack. In short, whether day hiking or going on a long-distance hike, loading the backpack properly will save you a lot of aches and pains later.

Proper packing largely depends on properly distributing the pack’s weight.

With an internal-frame pack, begin by placing lightweight objects at the pack’s bottom. Then place the heaviest objects in the center so that they would sit between your shoulder blades and next to your back. Lightweight objects (clothing, sleeping bag, small items) surrounding them and facing outward about halfway up. Set the medium-weight objects (first-aid kit, water filter, stove) at the top and also around the heaviest items (tent, cooking equipment). Using this approach ensures the weight is placed on the hips, reducing shoulder and back soreness.

An external-frame pack is a bit different. As with an internal-frame, you want to place lightweight objects at the bottom. Next, place the medium-weight objects in the bag. The heaviest objects go in next but about halfway down on the side of the back closest to your back and partially surrounded by medium-weight objects. This also helps place the weight on your hips.

As packing, fill in empty spaces. For example, if you pack a pot, fill it full of rolled up socks or T-shirts. Doing this means you’ll have more space in your pack for more items and that you won’t be lugging air (The empty space in that pot isn’t a vacuum, after all!).

Any items that you will need to access frequently or quickly ought to be placed in the pouches on the backpack’s exterior or at the top. Among these items are navigational tools such as maps, compass or GPS, insect repellent, trail mix, first-aid kit and rainwear.

Finally, be careful of how the items are placed in the backpack. Make sure sharp-edged items aren’t pressed against the backpack’s side, especially if it will press against your body. You’ll find a tent stake point or a first-aid kit’s corner poking your back at every step extremely uncomfortable.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.